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     Volume 6 Issue 10 | March 16, 2007 |

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Our Politicians and Other Animals

Nader Rahman

The politicians of Bangladesh live in a world of fantasy. They are surrounded by obscene amounts of money, amounts, which pale in significance to the power they wield. It has often been said that politics is show business for ugly people, and in Bangladesh their lifestyles if not appearances certainly lives up to that quirky statement. Luxury cars and massive mansions have defined what it is to be a politician in Bangladesh, yet these days we have another exclusive pastime to add to that list collecting exotic animals.

One wonders when it will all end, what stage have they reached, that collecting exotic animals is now their latest political fashion statement. To say they live larger than life is now officially an understatement. We have heard time and time again of their money spending sprees, but how on earth can they justify this? Freud would have had a lot to say about this, he probably would have said that the collecting of exotic animals was their conscious at work trying to cover the insecurities that lay just beneath the surface. To a certain extent he probably would have been right, there is a possibility that the parading of animals was just another show of masculinity, the fact that they could capture, tame and imprison them should have been an enormous boost to their egos. The problem with big egos is that the more you pump hot air into it, the higher the chance of it exploding. Let's just say that when the animals were caught in the politicians' possession by the joint forces, around Bangladesh a collective “pop” was heard.

Ooh Falu, what will this nation do with him? While he went about lining his pockets with money and building a media empire, less publicly he also tried in vain to repopulate Gohail in the Shimulia Union of Ashulia with deer, spotted deer to be precise. He was seemingly a jack of all trades and master of none, from four deer back in 1995, he had successfully bred them to 15 in number. One feels his true calling was raising wild animals, rather than farming other people's money. On March 2 at Falu's baganbari in Ashulia, 15 deer were seized and much like his reported bank accounts, they had gone up in number since the last time any officials kept track of them.

The next in line was former state minister for power Iqbal Hassan Mahmood. The joint forces and forest officials raided his house in Hosenpur to find what could only be called a mini zoo. There they seized four deer, two emus, three golden pheasants, eleven turkeys, seven peacocks and two mynahs, a dove and four rare species of pigeons. This was the man that was removed from his post last year amidst alleged irregularities in tender processes and delaying a number of power projects. It was also reported in the press that, during his four and a half years in office, Iqbal filled his bank accounts with a few million dollars through massive corruption. At least now we know where all that money went, he did not buy too many luxury cars, nor did he grab too much property, his unusual fetish was collecting wild exotic animals. One can just picture him there in his house, with the lights out (thanks to his dubious deals) sitting and watching his animals. Sipping his tea and enjoying the fruits of his corruption, fruits which took the form of birds and deer.

Harris Chowdhury also deserves an honourable mention here, the former political secretary to immediate past prime minister Khaleda Zia was caught with two caged peacocks. No doubt they were far less flamboyant than the man himself, as he amassed a fortune under the careful supervision of Khaleda Zia. While he had his numerous expensive Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) to show off, all the peacocks had were their feathers. History has taught us the owners of the Peacock Throne have never fully held on to it, this time was no exception. The Peacock Throne's name comes from the shape of a throne, having the figures of two peacocks standing behind it, their tails being expanded and the whole inlaid with sapphires, rubies, emeralds, pearls and other precious stones of appropriate colours as to represent life. It was created for the Mughal Badshah Shah Jahan in the 17th century, it represented his wealth, power and stature. One feels Harris had that in mind, as he sat gloriously in front of his two peacocks, the rubies, emeralds and pearls were the pickings he was entitled to as Khaleda Zia's right hand man. Experts have said the throne would have been worth $1 billion dollars today -- Harris did not have quite as much, but he was getting there. In the 18th century Nader Shah invaded the Mughal empire and took the throne back with him to Persia, it would be easy to say that for this story Nader Shah was replaced by the joint forces. With his peacocks, left his throne.

When emergency was announced on the January 11, little did the caged animals of Dhaka know that they would soon be released from captivity. Little did the public know that the politicians had more interests than just money. It came as a surprise to both camps. While only a few politicians (one feels “businessmen” is a better description for them) were actually caught with animals, it is rumoured that many more got rid of their furry friends before they could get caught. The result was a little army of privately kept animals were released, pythons in Chittagong and strangely enough crocodiles in Hoseni Dalan. No politicians have been directly blamed for these animals' releases, but the public is wiser than one thinks.

What drove the politicians to keep their exotic pets, one feels it comes from their innate “King Complex”. They viewed themselves as Kings, with wealth and power all taken for granted, all they wanted was to really feel the regal life. For that they needed expensive homes and gardens that had to be populated with wild, exotic animals. That way they really felt like they had a kingdom to rule over, full of forests and animals.

Fed, housed and taken care of by the state, the real animals were the politicians and one feels they should be in the zoo rather than their wild serfs. It is irony dipped in the finest of chocolate that has brought us to this position, where the politicians are being caught and caged while the animals are being freed. Oh inverted world.

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